Chemistry Professor Earns SUNY Chancellor’s Award For Excellence In Teaching

OSWEGO — The State University of New York has conferred on Casey Raymond, associate professor of chemistry at SUNY Oswego, the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, based on his consistent, beyond-the-call care for the performance and success of his students, his colleagues, his discipline and the college’s state-of-the-art science building.

Casey Raymond, shown here in a small class of Honors program students, earned a 2019 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

The chancellor’s award comes just two years after Raymond earned the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence at SUNY Oswego. Supporters of Raymond’s latest honor noted his distinction in everything he commits to, from improving the capability of the college’s learning management system to reviving the geochemistry program, and from serving on the board of Oswego County’s top charitable foundation to his work for Oswego’s Honors program.

In turn, Raymond makes demands for excellence from his students — in classes small and large — to meet a high standard, but in ways that show he cares about the success of each one, his supporters say.

Letters of recommendation came from a range of supporters: Raymond’s department chair, a former student now in a doctoral program, people familiar with his relentless efforts to make technology work for the benefit of students, a past colleague, and from both the founder and the board chair of the Richard S. Shineman Foundation.

High expectations

“Students who took any course with him or do research with him always talk highly of him regarding his personality, his approach to students and their issues, taking time helping them when they need it, providing helpful advice,” Fehmi Damkaci, chair of chemistry, wrote in recommending Raymond for the SUNY honor.

“His expectations in his courses are really high; I have noticed several students talking about how hard his homework is,” Damkaci said. “However, despite his high expectations, he still pulls very strong student evaluations.”

Martha Miller — a former student of Raymond’s who went on to work at the renowned Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and now is in a Ph.D. program at University of Rochester — wrote that she doesn’t know whether she would have made it through inorganic chemistry (CHE 451), were it not for Raymond’s mentoring.

Raymond was an exemplary teacher who “would meet early, stay late, or work through lunch if it meant they were able to help a student along the way in grasping a challenging concept or pursuing an idea to the next level,” Miller wrote. “If you were to visit my apartment today, you would see notes and diagrams from CHE 451 hanging on my doors and bulletin boards, because Dr. Raymond taught me to keep pushing through the arduous moments and persist with learning.”

Construction ‘shepherd’

Raymond, who has a doctorate from Colorado State and a post-doctoral fellowship from Northwestern University, arrived at SUNY Oswego in 2003, following five years teaching at Kent State. Within three years here, he was appointed faculty liaison for the $118 million sciences building, later named the Richard S. Shineman Center for Science, Engineering and Innovation, which opened in 2013. He earned high praise for that years-long effort.

Shineman’s widow and co-benefactor, Barbara Palmer Shineman, emerita professor of curriculum and instruction, wrote in support of Raymond’s Chancellor’s Award that he characteristically put on his teacher’s hat through the years he reported on the building’s progress.

“Casey Raymond just nailed those reports, speaking so articulately and clearly that I — essentially a ‘student’ in this matter of construction of a state-of-the-art building to support our sciences and math throughout the 21st century — was amazed and gratified,” Shineman wrote.

Kathleen Fenlon, board chair of the Shineman Foundation, said that likewise, Raymond’s presence on the Shineman board and its Grants Assessment Committee has benefited from his abilities. “Casey has used his skills to develop charts and graphs that present information in an understandable format. Board and staff members all learn from Casey’s presentations, and use this information in making key decisions,” she wrote.

‘Unfathomable tenacity’

Several supporters made reference to Raymond’s facility with bending technology to his instructional will, particularly in creating a method for inducing the college’s learning management system to produce a nearly limitless, random flow of questions for students to answer to gain a deeper understanding of chemistry for study or testing.

“The direct benefit to learners is that such question banks are nearly infinitely variable, requiring students to use problem-solving and computational knowledge to engage with the work,” wrote Greg Ketcham, assistant dean for the Division of Extended Learning.

“Working diligently and with a nearly unfathomable tenacity, he developed an entirely new process to re-create these adaptive questions within Blackboard. He was able to present this knowledge to SUNY as a whole via an Innovative Instructional Technology grant, which I was proud to co-sponsor,” Ketcham noted.

Gwen Kay, a member of SUNY Oswego’s history faculty and current president of SUNY’s University Faculty Senate, praised Raymond — then associate director of the college’s Honors program — for stepping in when then-director Kay was elected to office.

“When I had an opportunity to serve at a system-wide level, Dr. Raymond agreed, without hesitation, to serve as acting director for two years, a task at which he has succeeded admirably,” Kay said.

Kay also noted Raymond’s devotion to the primary mission: his students’ success. “He is always available for student inquiries, posting his hours in two different offices, but also his email and cell phone numbers. As an advisor, he asks questions and listens carefully to responses, letting the student guide the conversation and, ultimately, their coursework and career path,” she wrote.

Paul Tomascak, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a member of the atmospheric and geological sciences department, gave Raymond — whom Tomascak worked with closely in modernizing the geochemistry program — his “highest support” for the Chancellor’s Award.

“Another aspect of Dr. Raymond’s excellence in teaching is through giving his students meaningful scientific research opportunities,” Tomascak wrote. “He wants students to have more to show for the experience than three credit hours; he wants to prepare students to be scientists.”